“The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity.“ – V. Davis
If you watched the Emmy’s last night (or even just caught some of todays’ highlights and buzz), you are likely aware that Viola Davis made history by becoming the first Black woman to win an Emmy for a leading role in a drama. Whether or not you watch her show or are familiar with her work, is secondary to what her presence on that particular stage and the display of sisterhood that went on last night, revealed about who we are and how we ought to be. As a woman, a black woman and a professional woman… it was a good night.
As she accepted her award, she stood there in an exuberance of confidence and self-worth and used her platform to unapologetically remind us that there is still work to be done. Her words hold the entire community accountable for challenging systems and storytelling that do not value or represent all of our facets. She then, in the same breath, paid tribute to the work of our ancestor, Harriet Tubman, as well as her black, female colleagues for their persistence and successes in breaking down walls and taking down ceilings.
What I also witnessed last night was a celebration of sisterhood and affirmation as other black women celebrated each other for their achievements and triumphs in an industry dominated by racist, sexist and classist ideals. We saw Taraji P. Henson shout out “Yesss!” when Regina King accepted her award. In the press room, we heard Regina King acknowledge the women in her life and commend Viola Davis on her victory. We watched Kerry Washington fill with emotion and pride as she joined in on the celebration of other women. We saw black women stand up, applaud, cheer and cry. We saw sisterhood at its natural core … and it was a beautiful sight to see.
In a culture of limited opportunity, competing responsibility and partial infrastructure, we may find ourselves not having the time, energy or luxury to always be our best selves, but when we join together to support and validate our experiences, we create a new narrative about our belonging, our worth and our talent. This comes with not only demanding a seat at the table, but once we take our seat, we need to reserve a few more for our fellow sisters and then shout “Yesss!” when they sit down beside us.
As a professional social worker, educator and mentor, my journey is inclusive of women who have provided and supported me through opportunities that have led to my successes… our successes. What Ms. Davis and these other women did last night was model the ways in which I want to continue to push boundaries and barriers by holding everyone accountable for inequitable systems, but do so while standing up and cheering loudly when other women change the story… and hope that they will do the same for me.
Guest Blogger: Kathy Lopes, MSW, LICSW is a social worker and faculty member at Simmons College School of Social Work in Boston, MA where she is an Advisor and Professor in Social Policy and Dynamics of Racism & Oppression. Her past work experience includes case management, clinical, and managerial roles and current focus in advocacy, policy reform and diversity development within the field.